Monday, July 03, 2006

Chasing a better title format

Two guys I like and respect very much, Terry Blount of the Dallas Morning News and Dave DeSpain of Speed Channel, have weighed in with their opinions about what tweaks NASCAR should make to the Chase for the Nextel Cup in 2007.
If you missed it late last week, NASCAR chairman Brian France said some changes in the format are likely after this year, which will be the third under the current plan.
I am sure other guys have expressed their opinions, too. But Blount and DeSpain each brought up something I wanted to address.
We’ll start with Blount.
One of the things NASCAR apparently wants to do is increase the chance that more than 10 drivers might qualify for the Chase in a given year. They could, of course, simply say the top 12 or top 15 gets into the “playoffs,” but for some reason it seems NASCAR would rather have the number “float.”
There’s talk of widening the window in which a team would make the Chase from within 400 points of first to within 500 or even 600. I’d prefer 500, because I want to see good teams miss the Chase, which is what makes the season’s first 26 races worthwhile.
Blount’s idea is to make it so any driver who wins one of the first 26 races makes for the Chase. I might could be talked into that if you added one codicil – any driver who runs in ALL 26 of those races and wins one of them makes the Chase.
No disrespect to Boris Said, because it would be a wonderful story if it happens, but if Said wins at Watkins Glen next month that doesn’t mean he should get a shot at winning the championship. Last year, Kasey Kahne won at Richmond in May but his team did not perform to a level where that win should have given him a berth in the Chase.
I think Blount would settle for a version of the 500-point idea I’ve been pushing for two years.
Give a driver a 500-point bonus for his first win in the regular season. Not for every win, mind you, just the first one. Every driver who wins a race gets that bonus, so if more than 10 win during the first 26 races it then becomes a matter of consistency among those winners. A 500-point bonus, conversely, would not be enough to get a part-time team into the Chase.
During the Chase, reset the counter so that a driver gets the bonus again for winning one of those 10 races. The championship contenders know that to win the title they have to win a Chase race, and drivers not in the Chase could go a long way toward finishing 11th or moving up in the final standings by stealing one of those wins away.
People freak out when I suggest a 500-point bonus, but the number doesn’t matter as long as it’s enough to make winning the most important thing toward making the Chase. If only 10 full-time drivers win during the first 26 races, I agree with Blount that those should be the 10 guys with a shot at the championship.
DeSpain believes that NASCAR has grown to a point where it needs to expand.
He advocates dividing into two “leagues” for the first 25 races, with one league running on Saturday and the other on Sunday. Then, the top 10 or 15 from each league moves into the championship series.
I just think it’s fairly well established that dividing your sport is not the way to go. If open-wheel racing cobbled together a season-ending five-race playoff between the best from the IndyCar Series and the best from ChampCar, would that be better than having all of the good drivers and all of the good teams racing on the same track’s all season long? I don’t think so, and I don’t see how having Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth at one track and having Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson at another on the same weekend helps NASCAR.
Another smart guy, Jeff Burton, said over the weekend at Daytona that NASCAR might think about putting 15 guys in a Chase with 15 races to go, then cutting it to 10 with 10 to go and five with five to go like a true playoff. That’s better than the two leagues idea, I think.

14 comments:

Monkeesfan said...

Abolish The Chase.

All the discussion about ways to improve the Chase only prove the idiom about changing doctrine to justify the weapon - in this case making changes to justify a concept that isn't working.

And David, 500 points for a first win is stupid - the first and the second win and all the other ones after that are no less special.

Abolish the Chase, go back to the basic Latford system, increase race-winner points, and award three-digit quarterly and seasonal point bonuses for most wins and most laps led.

David Poole said...

Monkeesfan -- That going back thing? Ain't happening.

Monkeesfan said...

David, why not? What is in the Chase concept that NASCAR can't be made to go back?

dave said...

Monkeesfan,

NASCAR cant go back to the old way because promoters, tracks, TV, and sponsors all love the chase. A majority of the fans love the chase. The chase did boost ratings in the final ten races. For NASCAR to go back would dissapoint more people than it would please, and more importantly it would dissapoint the most important people.

David Poole said...

Well said, Dave.

David Poole said...

Monkeesfan, here's another part of the answer. NASCAR sold ABC/ESPN an eight-year TV contract with the Chase in it.

Monkeesfan said...

dave, a majority of fans love the Chase? I have not seen any serious fan preference for the Chase format. As for TV and the sponsors, how dissapointed would they be if NASCAR dropped the Chase format and went with a wins-oriented points format? They would forget all about the Chase format fairly quick.

David Poole, it's the same with the TV deal - if NASCAR dropped the Chase format and went with a wins-oriented points format, ABC/ESPN would forget there ever was a Chase format.

Tiredawg said...

Dave Just read your article about Jeffy, Scottie and Micheal. I will have to get back to you, I lost train of thought. I'm still laughing.

raceman1980 said...

I think an extra 100 points for every win is what is needed, both before and after the cutoff. I don't have the database to do the research, but I beleive that would add drivers to the chase. As for Burton's comments, that process would only work if the eligible drivers were only scored against each other.

David Poole said...

Raceman -- I think that's an excellent point.

Tony said...

David, i'm a little behind in reading you post but where are the majority of fans you take about. I've been a fan forever it seems like an most (98%) of the fans i know hate the chase. Nascar doens't need a 10 race playoff because it has a 36 race playoff. what other pro sport plays every team every week..NONE. Go to the bonus for wins sytem and get rid of the chase.


Tony
Wisconsin

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